WWE Payback 2014 features a number of rematches and title bouts, but can fans expect to see a surprise return or a faction fall apart as well?
Rumors regarding the latest pay-per-view have folks wondering if CM Punk is coming back, if The Shield's time together is over and if Daniel Bryan will somehow avoid losing the WWE World Heavyweight Championship. Digging through the backstage reports, interviews and scheduling issues that sparked that buzz reveals both hope and disappointment.
Bryan fans can give into optimism. The opposite is true for Punk fans.
We begin with Batista, whose schedule is again at the center of attention. Before one gets too worked about him reportedly leaving, remember that he was rumored to be taking time off after Extreme Rules as well.
The Animal Set to Depart
There isn't likely to be a third round to the battle between The Shield and Evolution. Batista is reportedly headed elsewhere after the post-Payback Raw.
Mike Johnson reports for PWInsider, "Batista is advertised for next week's Raw, which will be his last appearance before he goes on hiatus to help promote Marvel's 'Guardians of the Galaxy.'"
If that's the case, it's less likely that Evolution wins at Payback. Giving him the win right before he takes off would be counterproductive. That is, unless it's Triple H who gets the pin, setting up further conflict between him and The Shield and more specifically, Roman Reigns.
WWE needs a way to write Batista off TV, and Evolution breaking up and attacking him is a probable scenario. It's The Shield that may be doing the imploding, though.
The Possibility of The Shield Splitting
Dean Ambrose has the Internet buzzing with a single word—former.
In an interview with WWE Magazine, via Nick Paglino of Wrestle Zone, Ambrose talked about which Superstars he thought were the funniest. He said, "My former partners, Seth Rollins and Roman Reigns. I was probably the class clown of the group so I'd usually start the joking and ribbing. But those two are hilarious."
That certainly sounds like word of a storyline slipping out. That's not the only scenario, though. Perhaps this was conducted when WWE was going full-force with the breakup storyline and it had yet to reportedly change its mind.
Maybe it was just a slip of the tongue. Besides, if it was WWE's plan to break up The Shield soon, officials may look to rewrite the script now that it's been spoiled.
Still, fans will be watching especially close at Ambrose's interactions with his teammates at Payback. The cracks that have been repaired may emerge once more.
Bryan Perhaps Holding Onto World Title
Stephanie McMahon gave Bryan a choice on Monday's Raw: If he doesn't relinquish his championship at Payback, Brie Bella will be out of a job.
There is some evidence that, despite facing that ultimatum and recovering from neck surgery, Bryan will be able to keep the belt. According to F4WOnline, via Wrestling Inc's Marc Middleton, Bryan is "now rumored to face Kane at the Money In the Bank pay-per-view, likely in a Buried Alive Match."
If WWE is expecting him to be ready to compete that soon (June 29), it seems silly to strip him of the championship rather than just wait.
If officials expect him to be out past SummerSlam, there's little argument against having him drop the belt.
However, this reported return is not official. Bryan is not listed on the "included Superstars" section for Money in the Bank.
Punk Makes It Official
The fans in the Allstate Arena are sure to be chanting his name, but "The Best of the World" is not showing up.
There has been no indication of him returning, but that hasn't squashed all hope for some. The pay-per-view being in Punk's hometown of Chicago has restarted the "Is he coming back this time?" discussion.
He's not taking a break or a sabbatical, though. He considers himself retired.
In an interview with RedEye, Ernest Wilkins asked Punk how it felt to be retired. Punk said, "It feels good." He then talked about the charity work he's been doing.
He didn't clarify that he's just out for a short while rather than being retired. He didn't mention WWE in the entire interview. For the moment at least, he's seemingly happy to be elsewhere.
That should be enough to have even the most optimistic Punk fan stop waiting by the door for him to come home. There are plenty of other Superstars to root for and marvel at during Payback.